Sewing With Grandma

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The last two weeks have been filled with a lot fabric scraps and thread. My ongoing program to teach high school students how craft for charity has started sewing simple patchwork blankets. The idea was to get each student to sew simple quilt blocks of four squares and then sew everyone’s squares together to create a series of kennel blankets for the local humane society. I had no idea this project would stir so many emotions.

As I was cutting out squares for my students to sew, I found myself using my grandma’s block templates, seam allowance bar, and scissors. The memories came flooding back – summer at grandma’s where we learned how to sew. Grandma showing me how to hold a needle and how to pinch the fabric to make uniform stitches. Those wonderful memories made me dig through some of her old quilt patterns and I pulled one in particular.

Initially, I thought I would trace and cut the pattern pieces for students who exhibited higher level sewing skills. I sewed the first few blocks to remind myself how to work the pattern, but it quickly turned into something else. I realized I had inadvertently started this project two days before my grandma’s birthday. Perhaps it was subconscious action or kismet, but I could feel her with me. I ended up sewing every block and eventually pieced together an entire throw size blanket. The process was deeply cathartic.

Every skill she ever taught me came back, even though its been many years since I’ve sewn a quilt. I ended up with a beautiful little blanket that reminds me grandma is never really that far away.

The cat has already claimed it.

As for my students, they are learning quickly and we will be piecing together our first blankets next week. I made another blanket as a model for my students and even this project stirred some wonderful memories and sitting and sewing with my grandma. I can only hope my students feel the same kind of warmth – our little group has accomplished so much and we are all connected by what we’ve learned from one another.

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c.b.w. 2017

So Many Daisies!

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My crochet adventure has landed me smack dab in the middle of a field of daisies! Well, sort of. While perusing Pinterest, I came across the most adorable pattern for a granny square with a daisy in the center.

Seriously, how cute is this?

The image took me to Tillie Tulip, where I found a free step-by-step guide (with visuals!) on how to make the daisy center. It took some practice to master a treble crochet stitch, but it was well worth it to get those petals to puff.

An additional link on the daisy page, will take you to another page that lays out steps to add rounds in order to turn the daisy into a granny square. It’s a simple process that requires basic crochet knowledge (chain, double crochet). The only trick is figuring out how to space the shells.

Once I got the pattern down, it was all about color choice. While I love the colors in the sample blanket image, pastels really don’t fit my house. So, I decided to model my daisies after the Black-Eyed Susan and the plain white daisy.

That gave me the color scheme of brown, yellow, and white. I went with ever popular Red Heart yarn in Coffee, Gold and Soft White.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it? However, the overall effect creates a very autumn-like and cozy feel. Perfect for a granny square afghan!

Even though I used only three colors, I was able to create 9 different squares simply by switching the order of color in each round. This created a more interesting effect in the color distribution throughout the blanket.

To join the squares, I used a simple single crochet chain stitch, but through the back loop of the joined stitches on each square edge. This made the chain lie flat and it was easier to join corners.

For the border, I stitched five single crochet rounds. The first two were done in coffee to match the border with of the joined squares and then I did single rounds of Gold and Soft White, with a final round of Coffee to create a balance between the interior and exterior borders.

This afghan turned out better than I expected, especially since I’m a new crocheter. Who knew I’d have this much fun with a little yarn and a hook?

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c.b.w. 2017

Addicted To Granny Squares

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It’s official: I’ve fallen under the spell of granny squares. Nothing about them is remotely cool, except for the fact that they are ridiculously fun to make.

It all started when I decided I wanted to make a new throw blanket for the winter. I sat down with a set of instructions and made about 10 billion mistakes before I finally ended up with a semi-functional granny square. From there I practiced a bit and settled on a pattern I liked to make a 6″ square.

My mother always told me the best yarn for an afghan is Red Heart, so I got three skeins each of Burgundy, Hunter Green, Soft Navy, Coffee, Cafe Latte, and Aran Fleck. She’s right, by the way. Red Heart yarn is sturdy and can handle repeated failures!

It took a couple of months, but I made 14 squares for each color of yarn. From there, I laid them out in a diagonal pattern

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Joining the squares turned out to be the hardest part of the process because I couldn’t decide what method to use. I ended up stitching a single-crochet edging on each square with the Coffee color. Then, I did a back-loop slip stitch. This created a thicker color border and sturdier bond.

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I edged the entire afghan with two rounds of a single-crochet stitch, so it would match the width of the square borders. All in all, I happy with the result. I finished it just as the weather turned colder and it is very warm!

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I made a matching pillow with some of the leftover squares – I’ll post pictures of it soon, along with tutorial on how I made it.

This little pattern book gives great visual instructions and includes the pattern I used for my afghan.

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c.b.w. 2016

Knitting A Scrap Yarn and Flannel Blanket

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Over the summer, I started two scrap yarn knitting projects as a means to clear out my growing stash of leftover yarn, (see Knitting With Scrap Yarn). The first blanket turned out great and my little dog is snuggling up in it every night.

The start of the school year pushed my second project, the Maxi Cosi Blanket, to the sidelines for a spell, but I’ve finally finished it. In many ways, I think it turned out better than the first. The smaller size gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a new finishing technique for knitted blankets.

After blocking the blanket came out at 25″ x 27″. This turned out to be a perfect size for a little corner of the bed where my cat likes to sleep. She’s already claimed it as her own!

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The yarn came from four different partial skeins leftover from two hats, a scarf, a cowl, and a pair of socks. I let the amount of yarn dictate stripe size, however I was careful with the oatmeal color so I could carry it all the way through end to end, (I only came up 3 rows short, which I supplemented with a cream-colored yarn scrap I thankfully had stashed!).

For finishing, I decided to add a flannel backing. I saw the technique on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Luckily, my local craft store was having a sale on flannel fabric and it just so happened to have the perfect print. It was meant to be!

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To attach the flannel and keep it from “tenting,” I employed an old quilting technique (thanks for reminding me, mom!) of using yarn ties. Once again, I went to my leftover yarn stash and found a great partial skein of variegated woodsy colors.

The grid  of the knitted pattern made it easy to space yarn ties about 2″ apart. First, I tacked the flannel to the blanket using safety pins to mark where the ties would go. I worked from the center out to the edges. Second, I loaded a yarn needle with a double-strand segment of yarn. I came up through the bottom (the flannel side) and back down through the top (the knitted side), making as small a stitch as possible in the garter stitch sections of the blanket. This hid the yarn tie on the front and added the tie detail to the flannel backing. Lastly, I tied each section and clipped the ends.

To secure the edges, I sewed a basic blanket stitch using DMC pearl cotton embroidery thread. This thread is thick and sturdy, which makes it perfect for stitching together folded flannel and worsted weight knitted yarn.

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The result is a smooth edge that is decorative and not bulky. The edges are fully secure and the stitch adds to the rustic quality of the pattern and flannel print.

Not bad for scrap yarn, eh? See what’s hiding in your leftover yarn stash – it’s amazing what you can make with even the smallest scraps of yarn!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016

The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016